Whatever happened to administering medications on a sugar cube? Even Mary Poppins knew that “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”. Although I’m not a fan of needles, I’m even less enamored with getting sick so you do what you have to do. We each received an “anti-grippale” (la grippe is French for “flu”) vaccination letter from the national health service authorizing us to go to the pharmacy of our choice and to pick up the medication at no charge. We then had the option of taking the ready-filled syringe to our family doctor whose service would also be covered at 100% or to make an appointment with the pharmacist to have the injection done there. That’s what we did last year and her fee was 6 euros.
Not long after we had taken care of getting the flu shot we got a second letter from national health advising us of another fully-covered service: screening for colorectal cancer. I’ll spare you the details but that did require a visit to our physician’s office to pick up the kit that you take home and then mail something into a laboratory to get your results. According to the leaflet that came with the letter, 96% of the time the test is negative.
It would seem that all of this attention that is given to universal health care is paying off. According to the Ministry of the Economy and Finance’s statistical office, INSEE, life expectancy of French women at 85.6 years is second in Europe only to Spain’s 86.1 years while French men live on average to age 79.7. Simply for comparison, American women have an average life expectancy of 81.1 years and men 76.1.
So why do the French live so long? Is it the red wine, the cheese, the bread, the work/life balance, or just their general attitude? The “official” answer that I see quoted online revolves around a healthy lifestyle and easy access to affordable healthcare. Perhaps we should ask our 101-year-old neighbor. She eats chocolate every day, has a glass of wine (or two, if we’re there to pour it!) at lunch, reads Harry Potter, and always has a smile and a kind word for everyone she meets. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy an upbeat, positive lifestyle like that?